The other morning, two friends and I discussed underwear. “Dudes, what chuddies do you guys wear,” asked one, like close friends do, often and offhand, bang in the middle of a conversation about taxes, weekend getaways, and hot, bald men who make you giggly. One of us said she doesn’t wear any very often, and the other said La Senza, You can see why the three of us get along.
But what a great topic to open up. Because all of a sudden, here were three women of three fairly differing sizes and shapes — and, therefore, needs — diving right in and admitting it was so fucking difficult to find a decent pair of pants that you can just grab in the morning and wear, so you can deal with all the world is going to throw at you. And none of us could find a perfectly decent pair, that we could stick to. Brand names were exchanged, styles and preferences too. Period panties found their mention.
And here, for the first time, I understood the meaning of misery loving company. Because, you see, every time I say something, and someone tries to console me saying, “You are not alone,” I keep thinking, “Why does that help me?” Solidarity has never made me feel better. So, for the first time, when someone else said they can’t find a pair of pants that are just right, I was thrilled. It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t my imperfect. mum-of-two kids, chocolate-eating body that couldn’t find a decent, solid pair. It was two other women who looked completely different from me who had the same problem.
I asked around. It’s easy for me to do. Friends are used to me asking questions that are never explained. Out of the nine women I asked, one said they found reasonably comfortable panties every time she shopped. The rest had the same complaint as me. For the same reasons as well. No decent pants to be bloody found. And please, why should I find them? Because the women’s underwear market was only Rs 11,000 crore big according to an Economic Times report* from last year.
|What I want (top left) as opposed to what I get (rest of page)|
How do I know this? Because internet. So your question should be, “Why do you know this odd fact, Sandhya?” I’ll tell you why. Because when I started asking around, I saw that a lot more women were saying the same things that I was saying. Which is basically this: I want a pair of cotton pants that I can grab first thing after my shower in the morning, yank on and not worry about for the rest of the day. That and have them come in fun colours. So I did some armchair research.
What a fascinating world the world of undergarments for women in India is. For instance, DYK, that we export panties all the way from Korea, Turkey and Malaysia? Do they fit well, though? Ah. Also, DYK, you have charts available online that tell you exactly which port containers from which country carrying panties come at? I found this immensely valuable. When I am done going through all the brands that offer cotton panties and pinning them up on my soft board, marking them for all that’s wrong with them, I will hijack one of those containers and go through an entire container-ful of panties to find that one perfect pair. Then I will find the manufacturer and have his babies and hold him hostage for the rest of his life so he never stops making them.
But back to my dipstick research. Although my sample size is minuscule — I am aware of the fact — it is an intrepid and adventurous one. These are women who have tried everything from Rs 35 for a pair to Rs 245 a piece. (They’ve gone higher but felt like that’s all they should wear because paying Rs 685 for a pair of cotton panties made them treasure their rears and vulva so dearly that they couldn’t care less what they wore to work.) To make my sample size bigger, I am going to ask each of you reading this, assuming you are women, to tell me how easy or difficult it is to find a comfortable, affordable and perfectly fitting pair of cotton panties in India.
I found another very interesting market research document** that tells me many things. But mostly it tells me three things, on first read.
1. The underwear industry continued thriving when the whole world saw an economic meltdown. AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.
2. India has actual designers dedicated to researching and designing underwear. Could have fooled me. AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.
3. Super-premium underwear for women is nearly THRICE as expensive as men’s super-premium underwear (it’s a thing). AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.
I don’t get it. Is it just women with regular bodies that can’t find everyday panties? Do the model-ish, statuesque women all find perfect cotton panties to wear to work everyday? Do they go through the day with their derriere wrapped perfectly in a pair and their mindspace devoted to conquering the world, while the rest of us struggle with wedgies?
As the ET report clearly suggests, more women in India are buying more panties and bras. “They are buying more, too. An Indian woman now keeps about eight brassiere compared with 5-6 pieces in the past, a report by consultancy firm Wazir Advisors said. The number of panties in her wardrobe has almost doubled to 10, it said,” one para says. (Who says brassiere any more?) Are all these women buying pants that they’re just making do with?
Speaking of wedgies, why am I complaining about the lack of a basic pair of panties? Here’s why. Actually, let me give you the entire list. Here’s the do-and-don’t list for comfortable women’s panties that won’t cost me a clitoris.
1. They shouldn’t give you a wedgie. For women who dare to step out into the world with unsure panties, this is highly uncomfortable. Much productive time is spent training the mind to get used to the sensation of a wedgie if not dedicating it to find a place you can pull it free.
2. They shouldn’t pinch your skin. I don’t want to be sitting through meetings with the skin on my lower abdomen and my hips on fire because the elastic sucks big time. I certainly don’t want to come home and nurse fat, angry welts till they calm down.
3. This might be because of the generous proportions on me but panties shouldn’t be rolling down and settling anywhere they feel like. Panties are not adventurers.
These are basic rules of comfort. But why is this so difficult to find, you ask?
1. They don’t make them free of above said crimes.
2. If they do that, they make them in polyester.
3. And in neons.
4. And with lace on the sides.
5. And with ruffles in the front.
6. And bows at the rear.
7. Or in brown, maroon, forest green.
8. And with elastic that unravels and makes you and the pants look like a reject from the factory.
9. And without a crotch.
10. And with a price tag of Rs 456 for cotton panties.
This is why a regular woman, with a regular job — or not — with regular ambitions of keeping her mind on the day’s tasks instead of worrying about her panties, cannot find a decent pair to wear.
And in the miraculously rare event that I find panties that have none of these flaws, the name makes me want to gag myself with one of them. Men’s underwear — which is way less expensive in all categories — is named in pure spirit of idiocy. I mean what does VIP, MacroMan, Sand Beach and Lux even mean?! This time around, I feel your pain, men.
But women’s underwear names are right up there on the patriarchy bandwagon. Lure Wear, Enamor, Lovable, Lusty Gal (I kid you not). Everything’s just a step away from you feeling like a gift that’s going to be unwrapped in a roomful of spectators. You’d think at least that would be enough reason for them to make the damn thing comfortable. Nope.
Left to me, I’d just name them: Fit, Stay, Non-wedge, etc. But hey, I don’t make panties.
*The ET story I quoted from: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-07-06/news/64142828_1_premium-brands-lingerie-intimate-wear
**The market research thingy: http://italiaindia.com/images/uploads/pdf/market-research-on-undergarments-sector-in-india.pdf